The Visit

The-VisitOriginal Broadway Cast, 2015 (Broadway Records) 4 Stars (4 / 5) Any cast album that has the incomparable Chita Rivera as its headliner pretty much falls into the category of “indispensible” as far as I’m concerned — and when she’s delivering songs by the multi-award-winning team of John Kander and Fred Ebb, it becomes even more so. But, despite that hyperbole, this recording of the musical based on Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s black comedy — about an elderly millionairess who returns to her impoverished hometown, from which she was thrown out when she was an unmarried, pregnant teen — doesn’t quite rate a full five stars. Yes, Rivera’s delectable as she purrs her way through songs of revenge and long-lost love, and Ebb’s music has a jaunty Kurt Weill-sound to it. Much of the score is infectious. The trouble here stems from a problem with the dual tones of the show as reflected in both the songs and Terrence McNally’s book. On one hand, The Visit is an indictment of mob mentality, and on the other,  it wants to be a sentimental love story. Thus, the score has something of a seesaw effect on the listener. For example: “You You You” is a faux-Viennese waltz that seemingly drips with sugar as Rivera’s character, Claire, reconnects with Anton (played by Roger Rees), the man who had fathered her child and then betrayed her in their youth. The song is lovely and very effective in itself, but its tone jars in contract with more darkly comic numbers such as “I Walk Away” — about the myriad husbands that Claire has buried, allowing her to amass her fortune. As you might expect, both songs represent great work from the Kander-Ebb team, as do so many others on this album, but they simply don’t sound as if they belong in the same show. — Andy Propst